Trikeita Outerbridge suggests that the onus is on us to re-educate ourselves and our children to ensure a tragedy such as the Rebecca Middleton (inset) case can never happen again. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead/inset supplied
Trikeita Outerbridge suggests that the onus is on us to re-educate ourselves and our children to ensure a tragedy such as the Rebecca Middleton (inset) case can never happen again. *Photo by Nicola Muirhead/inset supplied

Every time the Rebecca Middleton murder case is brought back up, it seems as though the community misses the largest elephant in the room.

We insist on discussing the logistics and the bungling of the case, the shame it caused Bermuda and Bermudians and the tragedy that her parents are left to confront every day when they wake up. However, we have not moved on into the realm of really examining what have we done since to prevent a situation like this happening again. 

I wonder how often young women are raped or forcibly coerced into sexual intercourse and other acts, against their will, while trying to find a way home. Women do not invite rape or any form of sexual assault, yet we are overwhelmingly the victims of it. 

Setting bad precedents

It is odd because we have fathers, brothers and cousins who love us, who are grown men that do not even know what rape behaviours consist of. They do not know what consent really means and therefore they cannot teach consent to someone else. This is where the problem begins. When we allow our boys and men to consistently belittle, demean, objectify and sexualize our girls and young women, we set a precedent for them in adulthood that is almost impossible to correct. 

Rape is about control so really, what are we teaching when we chastise people for reporting their abuse, assault or rape? When we say things like, “She was drinking.” “She was wearing provocative clothing.” “She was flirting with me all night.” “I bought her dinner and drinks so she should know.” Why is this level of expectation of sex so prevalent? 

In the instance of Rebecca Middleton, she and her friend made a decision that ultimately led to her death but it shouldn’t have. The fact is, she should have been able to accept that motorcycle ride, no matter the circumstances, and those men should have had enough respect for her to see her home safely. That is the reality. She should have been safe. She did not make the best decision, but how can one blame her for thinking that she was “safe”? She wasn’t, and women make the common mistake of thinking they are safe all of the time but unfortunately, we really aren’t. This is where we need to be more responsible and accountable for ourselves and other women. 

It begs the questions: Have we been advocating for the safety of our daughters, sisters and mothers enough? Have we really taken the time to examine the interactions on this island between the sexes and what behaviours need to change? What have we accomplished, post-Rebecca, that proves that we are working towards changing the paradigm of sexual assault, rape and murder of women in Bermuda? 

Safe houses?

Is there a rape crisis centre? Are police better trained in resolving domestic disputes? Are there more safe houses? Are there classes about rape and abuse in our schools? Is there a police line that women can call if they are stranded, without transport or a taxi service after a night out?

Today, we can speculate about how the outcome of that fateful night might have been different had different decisions been made, but there is no way we can know for sure what might have happened.

And this is why the onus is on us, Bermudians and all those who live here, to make it a point to re-educate ourselves and our children about being better at respecting everyone and their boundaries when it comes to their bodies and personal space. 

Trikeita Outerbridge is a sales & marketing executive at the Bermuda Sun.